Chicago Hotelier of the Year
Patrick Donelly – Hyatt Regency Chicago

As General Manager of the largest Hyatt property and largest hotel in the city of Chicago, Patrick Donelly has aptly demonstrated his abilities as a leader, coach, and mentor. Through mentorship, Patrick has molded numerous successful General Managers and leaders by providing the right balance of direction and autonomy. Patrick is a master of sharing his own experience in order to help his colleagues learn and consider things from a broader perspective. At the core of Patrick’s abilities, the foundation for his success, is that he understands business and he understands people. He connects with anyone, enjoys spending time with others, and cares deeply about those in his care. 

Chicago Housekeeping Employee of the Year
Claudia Espinoza – The Peninsula Chicago

Claudia Espinoza has been The Peninsula Chicago’s lead A.M. Housekeeping Office Coordinator since 2002. Since the date she was hired, Claudia has NEVER been late or called off of work. She has been the recipient of The Peninsula Chicago Hotel Employee of the Year and Employee of the Month on several occasions. Claudia answers anywhere from 700 to 1,000 guest calls a day and never fails to offer a friendly, kind, and warm greeting with impeccable follow-up for every single guest. She also monitors guest requests, lost and found, hourly payroll punches, and anything else that is asked of her. Claudia is a wonderful person who her preoperty is very proud of!

Chicago Maintenance Employee of the Year
Jack Pagone – The Palmer House Hilton

Jack Pagone recently took over the role of Chief Electrician at The Palmer House Hilton, which is a very demanding and challenging position. Jack understood the challenges that lay ahead and has assumed his position with fortitude and compassion. He has played an instrumental role in the hotel’s transition to LED lighting throughout the building as well as organizing and streamlining inventory to expedite the process. Jack also does an amazing job in assisting with requests from the Catering/Events department. If there is a last minute pop-up event and someone is needed to stay late, Jack will volunteer his time to make sure the client is taken care of and all of their needs are met. The Palmer House Hilton appreciates Jack’s efforts and sacrifices – they never go unnoticed!

Chicago Department/Division Head of the Year
Julie Brown – InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile

Julie Brown has been the Director of Housekeeping for InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile for over 12 years. She is still as dedicated, driven, and enthusiastic about the job today as she was when she started. The hotel had an airline pilot whose laundry got lost. When Julie found out one of the guests had an issue, she went to the room herself and met the pilot. She offered to go to Nordstrom and buy a new shirt, but he said he needed his pilot uniform shirt. Then the pilot said, “I guess I have to wear my dirty one from yesterday.” He was leaving in one hour. Julie said, “I will wash your shirt for you.” She took it down, hand-washed, dried, steamed and ironed the shirt, so it was as if it was brand new. She brought it back to him with a sleep kit (sleep amenities and a little cuddly sheep). Julie works tirelessly to make the hotel one that guests love! 

Chicago Manager of the Year
Matthew Stroner – Swissotel Chicago

Matthew Stroner is Chief Engineer for Swissotel Chicago. In 2016, Matt implemented a very successful Perfect Rooms Program which completed preventative maintenance on all 661 of Swissotel Chicago’s rooms. Never in the hotel’s maintenance history had the Perfect Rooms Program seen such success. Often in day-to-day work, Engineering and IT work closely together on guest issues; with all of the IT requests, Matthew is always more than willing to help and never says “no.” He takes ownership of requests and does so with a smile. While Matthew takes his role seriously and exceeds in leading his team, his friendly natures always shines through. Swissotel Chicago team is proud to work with Matthew every day and thankful to have him in their hotel family!

Chicago Administrative Employee of the Year
Emily Gallagher – Renaissance Chicago Downtown

Emily Gallagher is Group Housing and Billing Coordinator for the Renaissance Chicago Downtown. No matter the cuisine or type of event, Emily is able to offer first hand recommendations that impress every client she speaks with. For example, one of Emily’s in house groups was planning to attend a Cub’s baseball game. She helped them purchase game tickets and CTA train passes and created personalized instructions to get to the game, along with a list of local restaurant and bar recommendations that a typical tourist would not know about. Emily’s client was surprised and impressed with her attention to detail which enhanced their experience. Emily goes out of her way to make connections with members of all departments throughout the hotel, and when a new person joins the team, she always steps up to guide them through the onboarding process. Emily is a true professional and a hotel industry rock star!

Chicago Food & Beverage Employee of the Year – Heart of the House
Darrell Crawford – Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile

Darrell Crawford is Lead Cook for Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile. One of the most impressive things he’s done so far is that he essentially took over the department while he was an hourly employee. From the moment he joined the team, Darrell has made a consistent effort to pass on his knowledge to his workers so that they can collectively meet their ultimate goal of presenting their best to customers. Whenever the opportunity has presented itself, he has helped his team learn and understand whatever they may not yet have known; he is the leader of the department both in the kitchen and on the floor with guests. Darrell maintains his composure no matter the situation, which allows him to remain so attentive to guests and employees alike as he goes above and beyond to address anyone that may need his assistance. Darrell understands that worthy dishes for guests start with care and support of the people who put them together, and he has found a good balance of championing his team and dedicating his time to providing excellent customer service.

Chicago Food & Beverage Employee of the Year – Front of House
Michael Youkhanna – Swissotel Chicago

Michael Youkhanna is Swissotel Chicago’s Barista at their lobby bar. One experience that stands out for Michael involves a candidate being interviewed for a Front Office vacancy at the hotel. Often, the interviews are conducted in the hotel’s lobby bar, and this time, Michael recognized that the candidate was nervous. To put her at ease, Michael made her a latte with a very special message: “Good luck!” The candidate was overwhelmed and surprised by his gesture and immediately felt welcomed! This is just one of the many experiences Michael provides. Michael’s talent to jump in and assist his team and the hotel whenever necessary truly makes him an outstanding colleague who contributes to the success of the hotel. 

Chicago Guest Service Employee of the Year
Lisa Treacy – The Westin Chicago River North

Lisa Treacy is Chef Concierge for Westin Chicago River North. Lisa began her concierge career in 1984. Her skills do not end with her office work. She also projects a warm, cheerful attitude to guests. Lisa always handles difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact. She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her. Lisa wears Les Clefs d’Or (keys of gold) on her lapel which shows through her dedication to research and knowledge of the Chicagoland area. One guest, in a review, wrote, “The star of your show was Lisa Treacy. She was very professional and asked enough questions of us to determine exactly what our needs were, including the precise type of breakfast restaurant we were looking for. And she sent us to the perfect place. It’s easy to see why she is a member of Les Clefs d’Or.” Westin Chicago feels privileged to know such a brilliant and dedicated person like Lisa!

Chicago First-Level Supervisor of the Year
Francisco Fernandez – Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

Francisco Fernandez is Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile’s Stewarding Supervisor. Francisco demonstrates a true commitment to the Stewarding Department, to his coworkers, and to the hotel. A recent example of Francisco’s support to his coworkers occurred when the banquet kitchen was without a Kitchen Supervisor for a considerable amount of time, and several associates were on vacation leave. This was a huge staffing challenge for the department and banquet kitchen. Francisco was very instrumental in ensuring that there was no delay in the operation, especially during large event functions. Francisco worked countless hours to make sure all areas of the operation were covered and ensured that his coworkers had someone to lean on during challenging moments. This was definitely no easy task, and thanks to a large contribution from Francisco, this challenge was smooth sailing. Francisco just completed his 22 years with Marriot; what an amazing testimonial this is in and of itself! He has always been an outstanding employee with a heart and soul that has no boundaries. 

Chicago Bell-Staff Employee of the Year
Dwayne Branch – Hotel EMC2

Dwayne Branch joined the EMC2 team just before the hotel’s grand opening and has been instrumental in the training and development of the team. As a Door Attendant, he greets guests with a genuine welcome. For a new hotel area, Dwayne has become the face of Ontario Street and knows most of the residents in the area. One situation that shows Dwayne’s true dedication and care was a time when a guest needed directions to her Chicago office. Low and behold, the destination the guest was looking for was only a few blocks away. Rather than calling a taxi or pulling out a map, Dwayne personally walked the guest to her office off of Michigan Avenue. He carried her bags up to her desk. The guest was blown away that someone took the time to help her. Dwayne is a team player and always willing to assist his peers or other departments!